Tag Archives: Boeing

Budget constraints and technical challenges delay commercial crew

A NASA inspector general report released today cites both budget constraints imposed by Congress as well as technical challenges that will delay the first commercial manned mission to ISS until 2018.

When the commercial crew program began, NASA hoped to have routine flights by 2015, but that slipped in large part due to congressional underfunding in the early years. OIG noted today that its 2013 report found that adequate funding was the major challenge for the program. Congress has warmed up to the program, however, and now is approving the full President’s request so funding is not the issue it once was. Technical challenges now are the major hurdle according to today’s report.

The companies’ systems must be certified by NASA before beginning routine flights to ISS. Boeing anticipates receiving certification in January 2018 with its first certified flight in spring 2018, and SpaceX is working toward late 2017 for its first certified mission, the OIG report says. But it is skeptical: “Notwithstanding the contractors’ optimism, based on the information we gathered during our audit, we believe it unlikely that either Boeing or SpaceX will achieve certified, crewed flight to the ISS until late 2018.”

The report has been written prior to yesterday’s Falcon 9 launchpad failure, which will certainly impact the schedule negatively.

Essentially, the report claims that the program was delayed initially by about two to three years because of the refusal of Congress to fund it fully. The delays to come will be instead because of the technical challenges. While I tend to agree with this assessment, I also note that government reports like this are often designed to generate more funds for the agencies involved, not find a better way to do things. If we are not diligent and hard-nosed about how we fund this program I worry that with time commercial crew will become corrupted by the government’s sloppy and inefficient way of doing things, and become as bloated as Orion and SLS. This is one of the reasons I never complained when Congress short funded the program previously, as it forced the companies involved to keep their costs down.

Starliner and Orion drop tests

The competition heats up: NASA and Boeing have begun drop tests on land and water respectively of their Orion and Starliner manned capsules.

Both sets of tests are taking place at Langley. With Orion they are dropping the mockup in water to test how it will respond to a variety of circumstances. With Starliner they have finished the water drop tests and have begun drop tests on land.

Russia-Boeing settlement in Sea Launch dispute?

According to one Russian news source, Russia has negotiated a settlement with Boeing over their Sea Launch dispute.

Russia says it has a possible buyer of Sea Launch, but they can’t sell it because the floating launchpad is in the U.S. and Boeing has gone to court to block the sale until Russia pays them the $300 million it owes them.

Design problems for Starliner

In the heat of competition: Boeing is working to correct two serious design problems that cropped up during the construction of its Starliner manned capsule.

First the thing was weighing too much:

One issue involved the mass of the crew capsule, which outgrew the lift capability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket selected to put it into orbit. The CST-100 Starliner will ride an Atlas 5 rocket with two solid rocket boosters and a dual-engine Centaur upper stage, and although Boeing and ULA engineers considered adding a third strap-on motor to compensate for the capsule’s extra weight, managers now have the spacecraft back under its mass allowance, Ferguson said.

Second, the capsule has a shape problem:

Ferguson said Boeing has a model of the Atlas 5 rocket and CST-100 Starliner in a wind tunnel to verify a change to capsule’s outer shape devised to overcome higher-than-expected aerodynamic launch loads discovered in testing. “They had one issue, a non-linear aerodynamic loads issue, where they were getting some high acoustic loads right behind the spacecraft,” said Phil McAlister, head of NASA’s commercial spaceflight development office in Washington.

Something here is rotten. It seems to me that Boeing shouldn’t be having these very basic problems right off the bat. In the past, under the older cost-plus contracts NASA used to routinely hand out, these kinds of problems would simply have meant that Boeing would have gotten more money from NASA, This time, however the contract is fixed-price. If Boeing has problems or delays, the company will have to bear the cost, not NASA. I suspect these problems might have occurred because of some cultural laziness at Boeing. Their management is used to not having to eat the cost of these kinds of mistakes. Now, they will. I expect the culture to therefore begin changing.

Russia negotiating with Australian investors to buy SeaLaunch

The competition heats up: Roscosmos revealed today that Russia is negotiating with investors in Australia to buy SeaLaunch.

I’m not sure how seriously we can take this announcement. The sale still has a lot of problems for any investors. Boeing is owed a lot of money by the SeaLaunch partners, specifically Russia, and the SeaLaunch floating launchpad is docked in the U.S. where they can hold it as collateral

Boeing begins assembling second Starliner manned capsule

The competition heats up: With the arrival of the major capsule components to Boeing’s Florida facility the company has begun assembly of its second Starliner manned capsule.

Following closely behind the joining of the two major hull components for the Structural Test Article (STA) of the CST-100 Starliner, Boeing and NASA are marking the arrival of the upper dome, one half of the Starliner pressure vessel, for the second Starliner module. The three components will undergo separate outfitting operations in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) where wiring lines, avionics and other systems will be installed and tested before the pieces are connected to form a complete Starliner.

This second Starliner module is known to Boeing as Spacecraft 1. Once completed inside C3PF, Starliner Spacecraft 1 will be outfitted with electrical and fluid systems before engineers will attach the outer thermal protection shielding and the base heat shield that will eventually protect crewmembers during re-entry. Starliner Spacecraft 1 will be used in the pad abort test to validate that the launch abort system will be able to lift astronauts away from danger in the event of an emergency during launch.

The article provides good detail about the upcoming Starliner test schedule.

First manned Starliner flight delayed

Boeing has revealed that the first manned flight of Starliner will be delayed until 2018.

This delay for Boeing is not really a surprise. Unlike SpaceX, the company had done very little actual development work on the capsule before winning its contract from NASA. They therefore have a lot more to do to become flight worthy. My one worry is their contract. If the contract is fixed price, as with the original cargo contracts awarded SpaceX and Orbital ATK, Boeing will have no incentive to delay, as they won’t be paid anything until they achieve specific milestones and will get no additional monies to cover the added costs of the delay. If the contract is cost-plus, however, NASA’s traditional contract system used for SLS, Orion, and almost every other boondoggle since the 1960s, then Boeing will be paid regardless of the delay, and NASA will also be on the hook for paying the additional delay costs, thus giving Boeing an incentive to slow walk the construction.

I think the contract was fixed-price, but am not sure. Anyone out there have an answer?

Boeing moves to block Russians from selling Sea Launch

In a reaction to news that the Russians have a potential buyer for Sea Launch, Boeing has sued to block the sale.

In a motion for a preliminary injunction filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California April 2, Boeing argued that a sale of Sea Launch could hinder its ability to collect on a summary judgment issued last year against Energia of at least $300 million. “If Energia succeeds in selling these assets and moving all of the proceeds thereof to Russia, without paying the hundreds of millions of dollars that it owes, it would unquestionably complicate Boeing’s collection efforts,” the company’s lawyers stated in the court filing.

Energia has refused to pay that $300 million. However, since Sea Launch’s floating launch platform remains docked in California, Boeing retains a great deal of leverage in this legal dispute. I expect the court will eventually put a lock on those assets until the Russians pay up.

Blue Origin engine testing update

The competition heats up: Jeff Bezos has released an update on Blue Origin’s test program of its BE-4 rocket engine, being built as a possible replacement for the Russian engines in the Atlas 5.

Bezos’s final comment kind of explains why Boeing has favored them over Aerojet Rocketdyne for this engine:

One of the many benefits of a privately funded engine development is that we can make and implement decisions quickly. Building these two new test cells is a $10 million commitment, and we as a team made the decision to move forward in 10 minutes. Less than three weeks later we were pouring the needed three-foot thick foundations. Private funding and rapid decision making are two of the reasons why the BE-4 is the fastest path to eliminate U.S. dependence on the Russian-made RD-180.

I imagine however a lot of Congressmen are upset by this. If they do it too cheaply or too quickly there will be far less opportunity to spend pork in their districts!

ULA’s parent companies express caution about Vulcan

The competition heats up? The executives in charge of ULA’s parent companies, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, today expressed mixed support for the development of the Vulcan rocket, designed to replace the Atlas 5.

For more than a year, Boeing and Lockheed Martin have been investing in the rocket on a quarter-by-quarter basis and the ULA board leaders said this week that the practice would continue. “We have to be prudent, disciplined stewards of any kind of investment,” Ambrose [Lockheed Martin] said. “Vulcan would be like any other investment decision.”

In September 2015, ULA’s leaders said a ban by Congress on the Russian RD-180 rocket engine, which powers ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket, was a leading driver behind the measured investment in Vulcan. But that issue was temporarily resolved in December, when Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) used a must-pass spending bill to eliminate the engine restrictions that had become law just weeks earlier.

Now, Ambrose pointed to “uncertainties” with launch policy, while Cooning [Boeing] said disagreements between lawmakers and the Air Force on the best approach for ending RD-180 dependence have given them pause, further justifying a “cautious and conservative approach.”

In other words, now that the law requiring a quick replacement of the Russian engine has been repealed, these executives feel less compunction to build Vulcan, something I had sensed in December and had commented on. As a result, they are telling us, in their tangled corporate ways, that they are not going to invest much of their own money on Vulcan, unless the government forks up a lot of cash for them to proceed.

Drop test of Boeing’s Starliner capsule

The competition heats up: Boeing has successfully dropped a fullscale test vehicle of its Starliner manned capsule into water.

Video below the fold. It isn’t very spectacular, as all they do is lift the capsule up about 35-40 feet and then drop it at an angle into a tank of water. Nonetheless, it shows that construction is moving forward briskly.
» Read more

Starliner schedule shapes up

The competition heats up: The schedule and launch plans for Boeing’s manned Starliner spacecraft are now becoming solidified.

For Boeing, Starliner will first launch on an uncrewed test flight to the Station via the “Boe-OFT” mission in April or May, 2017 – on a 30 day mission, ending with a parachute-assisted return. Should all go to plan, the second mission will involve a crew on a mission designated “Boe-CFT”, launching sometime between July and September, 2017, on a 14-day mission to the ISS.

The article also outlines the launch procedures Boeing intends to follow, some determined by the company and some by NASA’s complex safety rules. One interesting tidbit about Starliner revealed here that I was unaware of previously is that the capsule is made of separate top and bottom units that are only fitted together late in the launch process, allowing for easier access.

Aerojet Rocketdyne gets Boeing rocket engine contract

The competition heats up: Boeing has awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a $200 million contract to build the propulsion system for the service module for its manned Starliner capsule.

Unlike the big contract NASA gave Aerojet to restart its shuttle engine production line, this contract is for engines that will actually fly in space and accomplish something.

Competition for ISS cargo contract reduced to three

The competition heats up: With NASA once again delaying its decision on the next contract round for supplying cargo to ISS — this time to January — Boeing also revealed that NASA had eliminated the company from the competition, leaving only SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and Sierra Nevada in the running for the two contracts.

Earlier I had said that if the decision had been up to me, which of course it isn’t, I would pick Orbital and Sierra Nevada, since SpaceX and Boeing already have contracts to ferry crews to ISS. If you add Orbital’s Cygnus and Sierra Nevada’s reusable Dream Chaser, you then have four different spacecraft designs capable of bring payloads into orbit, a robust amount of redundancy that can’t be beat. When I wrote that I also noted that I thought it wouldn’t happen because Boeing’s clout with Congress and NASA would make it a winner.

With Boeing now out of the picture, it seems to me that the reason NASA has delayed its final decision again is that it wants to see what happens with the return to flight launches of Dragon and Cygnus in the next three months. A SpaceX Dragon success will cement that company’s position in the manned contract area, while an Orbital ATK Cygnus succuss will make picking them for a second contract seem less risky. In addition, maybe NASA wants Sierra Nevada to fly another glide test of its Dream Chaser test vehicle, and is now giving it the time to do so.

NASA to decide on 2nd cargo contracts Nov 5

The competition heats up: NASA will announce the two contract winners for its second round of ISS cargo contracts on November 5.

If it was up to me to pick the two winners from the four companies bidding, SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital ATK, and Sierra Nevada, I would go with Orbital ATK and Sierra Nevada. SpaceX and Boeing already have contracts to ferry crews to ISS with their Dragon and Starliner capsules. By picking Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsule and Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser reusable mini-shuttle, NASA would then have four different ways to get payloads to ISS.

Sadly, the decision is not up to me. It is more likely NASA will pick SpaceX and Boeing. Boeing especially is likely to get picked because they are an established big player with lots of capital and influence.

Lockheed Martin eliminated from ISS cargo contract competition

The competition heats up: NASA has eliminated Lockheed Martin’s bid for the second round of ISS cargo contracts.

This leaves SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and Orbital ATK in the running. While dropping Lockheed Martin reduces the number of competitors for the contracts, it increases the competition between them. The decision is now expected in November.

Boeing’s first stealth plane concept

Boeing has just released the few remaining photos and documents relating to a 1960s stealth plane concept, including pictures of a half-scale prototype.

The concept dates back to the early 1960s, with a one-half scale model of the aircraft being built sometime between 1962 and 1963. The aircraft was an exercise in utilizing specific materials and shapes to drastically reduce the radar cross-section of a tactical aircraft. From this pioneering design, five Boeing “stealth” patents were awarded, and they only appear to have shown up in public records in the early 1990s, decades after they were officially filed.

The model of Quiet Bird was said to have been tested at Boeing’s Wichita facility in 1962-1963, all of which occurred on a radar range. No actual flight testing of Quiet Bird itself was said to have happened, though. But the tests were highly successful: they proved that it was possible to drastically decrease the radar signature of a tactical aircraft.

Boeing reveals landing sites for Starliner

The competition heats up: Boeing has revealed the prime landing sites for its manned Starliner capsule.

Boeing is still finalizing a list of five candidate landing sites in the Western United States, but the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah will initially be the prime return locations, said Chris Ferguson, deputy manager of the CST-100 Starliner program. The capsules will parachute to airbag-cushioned landings after each mission, beginning with the CST-100’s first test flights in 2017.

The article also outlines the overall status of Starliner, including what sounds to me like some scheduling and design concerns:

Boeing is taking a different approach to development of its human-rated spacecraft than SpaceX, which has already completed a pad abort test and plans an in-flight abort demo in late 2016. SpaceX is testing as it goes, while Boeing is doing more design work up front. “A lot of focus is on ensuring, at this phase, that we’ve got full rigor in all our processes and all of our designs, really trying to buy down the risk that something could come up downstream to perturbate either our design or our schedule,” Mulholland said.

Boeing plans no such in-flight escape test, and Mulholland said it can prove out the CST-100 abort system through wind tunnel analyses. “That’s our philosophy — to make sure we don’t run a test just to go run a test,” Mulholland said. “We make sure we fully understand all the requirements that we need to certify to, and we pick the best approach.”

Mulholland said the sequence of test flights in 2017 is tight, but Boeing’s schedule has margin to achieve the start of operational missions by the end of that year. Managers decided to move the pad abort test from early 2017 to August, a change that Mulholland said created more margin in the schedule leading to the first crew flight. [emphasis mine]

The lack of an in-flight test of the abort system is worrisome. This sounds just like NASA and Boeing in the shuttle era when they repeatedly made overconfident claims about the shuttle’s reliability and safety that were completely unrealistic, based not on tests but on computer simulations. The tight schedule also is a concern, especially because of the corporate culture of Boeing, which has a history of using these contracts to squeeze money from the government while putting a low priority on actually building anything.

I fear that might be what is happening here, especially since Boeing, unlike SpaceX, refused to build much of anything prior to the announcement of its Starliner contract. The company does not like to take any risks at all.

ULA rejects Aerojet Rocketdyne $2 billion bid to buy company

The competition heats up: Boeing today said that it has rejected Aerojet Rocketdyne’s $2 billion bid to buy ULA, the Boeing/Lockheed launch partnership.

“The unsolicited proposal for ULA is not something we seriously entertained,” Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher said. Boeing said it remained committed “to ULA and its business, and to continued leadership in all aspects of space, as evidenced by the agreement announced last week with Blue Origin,” a company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos that is designing the engine for a new rocket being designed by ULA.

Lockheed declined comment, saying it did not discuss transactions with other companies. A source familiar with the matter said Lockheed’s refusal to comment did not reveal any disagreement between Lockheed and Boeing, and both companies agreed to reject the bid.

This might not end the issue, as Aerojet Rocketdyne officials might still follow up with a more formal proposal.

Boeing names its CST-100 manned capsule Starliner

The competition heats up: Boeing today unveiled “Starliner” as the new name for its CST-100 manned capsule.

This intensifies the competition because the new name is something the public can grab and identify. As long as Boeing was using the boring acronym they were holding back to stay in the boring do-nothing pork-laden government-funded NASA environment. Grabbing the public means they want the public to buy this product.

Posted from Spokane, Washington.

Boeing lobbies for renewal of the Export-Import Bank

Boeing on Monday told its satellite workers that it will eventually lay off hundreds because of lost contracts due to the failure of Congress to renew the Export-Import Bank.

Boeing Co (BA.N) on Monday told its workers that it expected to cut as many as “several hundred” jobs in its satellite business through the end of 2015 due to a downturn in U.S. military spending and delays in commercial satellite orders. Multiple commercial orders were being delayed by recent failures of launch vehicles and uncertainties about the future availability of financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, whose government charter lapsed on June 30, the company told key managers in an internal communication.

Boeing spokesman Tim Neale confirmed the reductions and said the total number of people affected would be finalized in coming months. Some could find work in other parts of Boeing, he said. [emphasis mine]

This announcement is pure lobbying, no more. They might have to lay off workers, but they haven’t done it yet, and when they do the numbers are likely to be far less than they are implying. And even so, the layoffs will probably be good for the company, making it more lean and efficient.

The reason they have made this public now is to generate support for a renewal of the Export-Import Bank, which Congress allowed to expire last month. Boeing wants it back, because the company uses the low interest loans it provides (using government money) to get contracts abroad. However, they really don’t need it to do that. They could trim costs, work more efficiently, and get loans in the private sector, as every other private company is expected to do.

This announcement is really no different than the doom that was predicted prior to the arrival of sequestration. Those budget cuts were going to cause the destruction of the defense industry and the American military, while causing the airline industry to collapse because the TSA and the FAA wouldn’t have the staff to keep the planes in the air. Twas all a lie. Nothing happened, and by some miracle the government still had plenty of cash to keep things running smoothly. Similarly, Boeing can compete without the help of the government. They just have to stop whining and do it.

Boeing’s 747 is finally heading for retirement

After 45 years of service, Boeing’s 747, the world’s first jumbo jet, is finally facing retirement as airlines consider more modern planes for their fleets.

The plane that so audaciously changed the shape of the world is now on the wrong side of history. Airlines are retiring older 747s – JAL no longer flies them – and Boeing’s attempt at catch-up, the latest 747-8 model, has had technical problems and is selling only very slowly. The air above my garden will not be troubled by 747s for very much longer.

The article gives brief but detailed outline of the 747’s history, and why passengers and pilots still love it. I love it because of this:

The 747 was America at its proud and uncontaminated best. ‘There’s no substitute for cubic inches,’ American race drivers used to say and the 747 expresses that truth in the air. There is still residual rivalry with the upstart European Airbus. Some Americans, referring to untested new technologies, call it Scarebus. There’s an old saying: ‘If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.’

A comparison to the European Concorde is illuminating. The supersonic Anglo-French plane was an elite project created for elite passengers to travel in near space with the curvature of the Earth on one hand and a glass of first growth claret on the other. The 747 was mass-market, proletarianising the jet set. It was Coke, not grand cru and it was designed by a man named Joe. Thus, the 747’s active life was about twice that of Concorde.

Update on Boeing’s CST-100

This article provides an update on the status of the construction of Boeing’s CST-100 manned capsule.

It also describes NASA’s lobbying effort with Congress to get the full budget it had proposed for the construction of the commercial crew spacecraft.

I note instead the apparent bureaucratic focus of all the work Boeing seems to be doing.

Following the CBR [Certification Baseline Review], Boeing successfully completed the Ground Segment CDR (Critical Design Review) on 4 December 2014 before moving onto the Phase 2 Safety Review (Part B) in early January 2015. By mid-March, Boeing completed the Phase 2 Safety Review (Safety Technical Review Board Readiness) and moved on to the Delta Integrated CDR, which took place on 27 March 2015.

Since then, Boeing has spent the summer months conducting the Phase 2 Safety review (STRB 80%) as well as producing the CDR for the launch elements of the program and the Qualification Test Article Production Readiness Review.

Moreover, in late July, teams at the Kennedy Space Center began building the Structural Test Article (STA) for the CST-100 capsule inside former Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3 (OPF-3).

Lots of reviews, but notice in the last paragraph they have only begun building the first capsule. As much as these reviews might help them make sure they are doing things right, they seem to create a situation where the company is able to slow-walk construction to help NASA with its congressional lobbying effort, while simultaneously making it sound like they are accomplishing a lot.

NASA names its astronauts for the first Dragon and CST-100 flights

The competition heats up: NASA today named the four government astronauts that will fly on the first manned demo flights to ISS of SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100.

Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Sunita Williams are veteran test pilots who have flown on the shuttle and the International Space Station. ….

NASA said the four astronauts will train with both companies and have not yet been assigned to flights. Two-person crews will fly the first test flights by each capsule, after they have completed an orbital test flight without people on board. Company proposals anticipate an all-NASA crew flying SpaceX’s Dragon test flight, with Boeing’s CST-100 carrying a split NASA-Boeing crew. Boeing has not yet identified its astronaut.

ULA has dubbed its next generation rocket Vulcan

ULA has announced its plans for replacing the Delta and Atlas 5 rockets, dubbing its new rocket Vulcan.

They plan to develop Vulcan’s first stage first and use it initially on Atlas 5 rockets so they can replace the Atlas 5 Russian engines as soon as possible. Also, they plan to recover the Vulcan rocket’s engines by having them separate from the booster after use and then get captured in a mid-air before hitting the ground. (See the graphic at the link to see a launch profile.)

In watching the press conference, ULA officials made it very clear that they are focusing a lot of their effort on lowering the cost of the rocket.

Lockheed Martin enters the competition to supply cargo for ISS

The competition heats up: Lockheed Martin has joined Sierra Nevada, Orbital ATK, Boeing, and SpaceX in bidding for NASA’s next contract to ferry cargo to ISS.

Lockheed’s proposal is different in that it proposes a two spacecraft operation. The cargo would be hauled up in a very simple storage bin, where a long-term orbital tug would grab it and take it to ISS. The idea is that they would only have to build and launch the complicated thrusters, robot arms, computers, and avionics of their cargo freighter once, thereby saving money.

Two companies will be chosen. Since the first competition back in the mid-2000s, when NASA picked SpaceX and Kistler for the first cargo round, the quality of the bids has improved remarkably. Back then, NASA had to choose from a bunch of new companies, none of which had ever done this before. The big companies (Boeing, Lockheed Martin) then poo-pooed the competition, saying that it couldn’t be done as cheap as the new companies claimed. After Kistler went under and was replaced by Orbital, they and SpaceX proved the big companies were wrong.

Now the competition includes all the big players, except that those big players are no longer offering expensive systems but cut-rate efficient designs that are as cost effective as SpaceX and Orbital’s first designs.

NASA schedules commercial manned demo missions to ISS

The competition heats up: NASA has now added to its ISS schedule the planned launch dates for the first demo missions of SpaceX’s and Boeing’s privately built manned capsules.

For Boeing, its CST-100 will first launch on an uncrewed test flight to the Station via the “Boe-OFT” mission in Apr, 2017 – on a 30 days mission, ending with a parachute assisted return. Should all go to place, the second mission will involve a crew – yet to be selected – on a mission designated “Boe-CFT”, launching in July, 2017, on a 14 day mission to the ISS.

The [planning] dates show SpaceX to be the most advanced in the Commercial Crew path, with their projected test flight dates currently set to win the honor of being the first Commercial Crew vehicle to arrive at the orbital outpost. That first Dragon 2 mission, designated “SpX-DM1″, has a December, 2016 launch date, ahead of a 30 day mission – most of which will be docked to the ISS – ending with a parachute assisted landing in the Pacific ocean. This would be followed by “SpX-DM2″, a crewed flight, launching in April of 2017, on a 14 day mission. This would mark the first time astronauts have launched from American soil on a US built spacecraft since Atlantis’ STS-135 mission in 2011.

American manned space exploration should begin to get very exciting in the next two years, with multiple companies now capable of putting humans in space.

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